Tag Portuguese Culture

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Eat like the locals in Portugal!

Slow travel through the country of red roofs

In 2015, I took a holiday to Portugal. It will always stay with me as I quite simply enjoyed a slice of Portuguese life. I didn’t travel around ticking off things on a check list but took it slow and explored the food, culture, history and music like the locals would. To put my whole two weeks of food in Portugal, into one blog post, may not be doing it justice. With this piece I want to get you to eat like the locals in Portugal!

Always on a food trail

While travelling, the food of the country is integral to the experience for me.Hence, important for me to eat like the locals! Portugal is a meat lover’s paradise, the smells and tastes all much lighter and juicier than India. In Portugal it is more about the cuts of meat or fish than the spice. It is about the taste sneaking up on you rather than something you cannot miss- in one word ‘understated’ a trait that I think is wholly European.

My Portuguese welcome!

I was lucky to have a friend who was based in Lisbon, who I could travel a with. Mark is born and raised Indian, however, I feel he is someone who is versatile. Not because he knows the history and facts of the place better than most of us, which is true, but because he has a heart that connects. After travelling with him to different countries, I realise he has a genuine ability to fit in rather than stand out. This makes people more open and brings to your table new experiences. When locals know you are there to soak it in and not to analyse or compare they become your friend.

If you miss The Pastel de Nata, what did you eat in Portugal. The Portuguese love their sweets and this is their most important one.
The Pastel de Nata

But coming back to the food. As soon as I landed Mark gave me the Portuguese welcome. I started my culinary adventure with ‘Pastel De Nata’ the most important sweet of Portugal. And the Portuguese love their sweets! They start off their day with different cakes and strong coffee. The ‘Pastel De Nata’ is a Portuguese egg tart pastry. Having a sweet tooth, it didn’t take too much to convince me, to try this and the other Portuguese sweets for breakfast.

Agape in Portugal!

As I started my journey, I travelled with a group that was from around the world. We had Mark’s flatmates who were originally from different islands near Portugal, and two German girls who were backpackers. All of them students on various forms of break, meant my travel was quite budget. And therefore we were definitely watching what the locals were eating. 

The best place for local cuisine in Lisbon, are places called ‘Tashka’s, equivalent to our local Udupi joints. Found on every corner, Tashka’s are basic places with affordable, authentic, food. You can even stand at the counter top and have a meal for half the price of being served at the table! Also beware about eating the accompaniments like bread and butter that come to your table. They are charged for and the waiter will not tell you. You may start missing the Indian service after this.

The Beef Bitoque  is eaten on a daily basis by the locals in Portugal
Beef Bitoque: The rice hides a bed of beef

For my first dinner in Portugal I tried ‘Beef Bitoque’. The dish consists of rice, veggies and potatoes with a nice beef steak at the bottom, commonly eaten by the locals. The Portuguese eat veggies and potatoes with everything. As we went through our culinary journey we had ‘Bacalhau’ or the salty codfish which is the national fish of Portugal, an acquired taste (I didn’t acquire it!). I tasted the Alheira which is a type of Portuguese sausage, made with meats other than pork usually vealduckchickenquail or rabbit and bread.

More local dishes to try

I also tried the Fibras do porco or Pork fillet again accompanied with rice, veggies and potatoes. Not to forget the beef burger buns to eat on the go. They were so good and as cheap as two Euros. An equivalent back home, would be Frankie’s but of course sans the masala. These burgers are smaller and the bread is like our local ‘pav’. The cool part I discovered, you will find guys selling them late at night, in the party district, once the pubs close down and people are heading back home. It definitely makes a perfect midnight snack!

Some special Portuguese dishes!

Carne de Porco a Alentejana is pork with clams Alentejo style. The sublime combination works making it a meal highlight.
Carne de Porco a Alentejana

One day when the students were exploring on their own and we were feeling quite rich, we tried the most delicious Carne de Porco à Alentejana. We ate this at a beautiful outdoor café in downtown Lisbon that had views of the city. Literally translated the dish is Pork with Clams Alentejo Style (this means coming from the Alentejo region). I could never think of that combination. But it certainly does work! Lightly flavoured but succulent pork, with fresh clams that seemed to be just picked, this was definitely a meal highlight.

 Portugal's famous Chorizo Assado a pork dish , with a smokey and peppery flavour.This dish should not be missed.
Chorizo Assado

And of course you cannot leave without tasting the Chorizo Assado, not to be missed, when in Portugal! The Pork sausage is cooked with spirit, and comes to your table with the flames rising up. This gives it a smokey effect, definitely improving the flavour. Peppery and flavoursome, we ate it at an outdoor garden area, at the LX factory accompanied by Portuguese beer, which was indeed a fitting end to my sojourn through the country. I am certain that anyone who wants an authentic dining experience in Portugal can start with these dishes. I hope I get to go back some day to explore some more. Viva Portugal!

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Kochi with a twist

“This is your time to travel, you may not get this much time again.” Encouraged by the husband to travel, I researched on where I could possibly go. As luck would have it, there was an art festival happening in a city, I always wanted to go back to.

Sunsets in Kochi

The Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 is in its 4thyear. Having read about it over the years, I thought this would be a great time to visit. The trip was surprisingly easy to plan. I managed to convince a friend, she booked us cheap air tickets and I booked a cheap Bed& Breakfast. We were set. Sometimes taking the easy route is a good decision.

The first thing you will notice is the way the Biennale is spread out in Fort Kochi. It lets you soak in the culture of the place. The art has Dutch, Portuguese and Keralite venues as the backdrop, not to mention the sea following you throughout. Truly a beautiful setting!

As mentioned the choice of Fort Kochi to host this Biennale is spot on. Some of the reasons to attend:

Beautiful settings to take a break at, Dutch building -David Hall and fresh catch on display, at Fort Kochi!
  1. The place gets properly intertwined with the show and leaves you feeling as if you have got a proper taste of Kochi
  2. Kochi is one of the safest places I have travelled to in India. I would recommend it for women travelers  
  3. Kochi can be as affordable or expensive as you like and the quality of the south Indian fare will still be good. This is my experience after my second visit.

My travel partner asked me if I think the theme of the Biennale ’Possibilities of a Non Alienated Life’ went with the art that was on display. For me it did make sense. It opened my eyes to the conflict in different parts of the world. We may not be touched by it directly, but it is important to be aware. The art was engaging and composed of paintings, installations, movies and experiences.

I highlighted artists that were memorable to me. However I would not want to judge one over the other. I commend the Biennale for the number of topics dealt with from across the world and India, that made me a more knowledgeable world citizen. 

So, in no order of importance some of the artwork that stayed with me includes: 

Walid Raad- ‘I thought I escaped my fate but apparently’
Waalid Raad’s tongue-n-cheek work – ‘Comrade leader comrade leader

Artist Walid Raad– ‘Comrade leader comrade leader- you’d better be watching the clouds.

This artwork made me outright laugh.Quite aptly his political commentary is satirical. I loved the idea of middle eastern leaders appearing as flowers, which in reality has been used as a code for their names. And the piece ‘I thought I’d escape my fate but apparently’ are quotes taken directly from the media and represented in the artwork

Shilpa Gupta- ‘However For in your tongue, I Cannot Fit- 100 Jailed Poets

Shilpa Gupta’s – ‘However For in your tongue, I Can Not Fit- 100 Jailed Poets’.

This installation is beautiful beyond belief. It does not allow you to view it complacently, but you will get pulled into it. It features individuals incarcerated for their politics and poetry. You hear their voices all at once above the mikes. It makes one think about the freedoms we take for granted were what someone else sacrificed their life for. The stories make you feel grateful for being born in a democratic nation, where it is not the rule but rather the exception that the government will snuff out your voice.

Shirin Neshat’s -‘Turbulent’.

We didn’t sit through all the videos as there were many and we didn’t have enough time. However, this video touched me. The explanation said that in Iranian culture women are not allowed to sing to an audience. Then watching the woman singer, sing her unintelligible song to an empty audience, bought home the point of female oppression so clearly. (No picture available)

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’ and the ‘Trojan Ships’

This artwork fascinated us with its light, movement and colour. This installation came alive because of a button on the door and yes, we kept pushing it. No wonder this form of Indonesian puppetry, is considered visual art.

While I love visiting new places, I also love getting deep into oft visited places especially if there is more to explore. So here’s a shout out to the universe to make it happen many more times with Kochi.There were also student & collateral pieces that were housed in different places off the main Biennale venues. We tried to take in as much as possible and I will be doing a pictorial representation of more of the artwork- so stay tuned.

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